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Singing Bowl Sounds and Overtones

Did you know that a well made Tibetan singing bowl can produce different sounds from the same bowl? Tap your singing bowl gently and listen carefully. How many notes can you hear? In most cases, there will always be one clear fundamental (low) note and one distinct high note (overtone). There are probably more overtones too that people with good hearing skills and fine tuned ears will notice.

The sounds you hear will often depend on the way you strike and play your bowl. In this blog, I have a few videos of the same bowl being played by Kunga.

Striking the bowl with a ball mallet: When a singing bowl is struck gently with a ball mallet, the fundamental low note will sound louder than the higher overtone.

Isolating the Fundamental Low Note: By gently rubbing the felt end of the mallet around the singing bowl, you can isolate the fundamental low note of the singing bowl.

Isolating the High Note: This one takes practice. With a firm grip, rub the felt end of the mallet around the singing bowl till you notice the high note beginning to sound. Continue and maintain a firm grip around the bowl. Varying the angle of the mallet helps and we find that 45 degrees works quite well. You can also adjust your grip on the hand holding the singing bowl to dampen any of the low note if it starts to sound. Another easy way of achieving the high note is to play with the wooden end of the mallet.

Striking with the Felt End of Your Mallet: Gently striking the bowl with the felt end of your mallet will give you a good balance between the fundamental low and the high notes of your singing bowl.

 

Note that different methods of striking will give you different sounds. The same can also be said for different kinds of mallets that you may use with your bowl.

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The video above shows one of our standard Tara bowls being played. The same overtones can be achieved from our contemporary bowls as well. For smaller bowls, isolating the fundamental and overtones is possible, but requires practice.